What unplugging taught me about love

betty ming liu Inspiration, Relationships 16 Comments

For the last three months, I experimented with unplugging from social media. My motivation was very practical. I walked into the down time holding an ambitious to-do list. But unplugging turned into a re-wiring of my entire life. This post is about how I lost and then, found love.

To recap: On Aug. 22, I blogged about unplugging for a month. Just a month. That’s all I wanted. Four whole weeks seemed more than adequate for accomplishing the following projects:

  • Send my daughter — my only child — off to college.
  • Find a handyman to build a shelf over my new refrigerator.
  • Sew new living room curtains.
  • Finish a second rewrite of my book manuscript.
  • Start teaching two, and possibly three fall journalism courses.
  • Clean my wood-burning stove and order firewood.
  • Tinker with the design of this blog.

By the end of September, I was feeling smug. Check, check, check — one by one, I was steadily crossing off items. Huge chunks of time seemed to open up because I was staying off of my iPhone and MacBook laptop.

No more Instagramming photos of my food. When I read an interesting story in the newspaper, I simply reflected on it instead of tweeting out a useful link. Facebook…what’s that? My blog sat silent in the distance.

Looking back, I was in a tech detox and didn’t know it.

The self-imposed Internet black-out turned into an inviting black hole, a quiet cave, a deep dive. Priorities shifted. Relationships changed. There has been much mourning and also much humor. I have resurfaced feeling very calm and content.

Here’s what I learned:

  • Parents can keep growing too. Gabi went off to college at the end of August. I was home alone, missing my little girl. Now that she’s 19 and I’m 57, we’re transitioning into an adult relationship. Help! In early October, she emailed me “26 Fail-Proof Tips for Keeping Your Chinese Mother Happy.”  She said I reminded her of tips #2, 3, 8, 9, 12, 13, 19 and 21. I laughed so hard that I had to re-post on Facebook — a toe-dip back into social media. Inspired to move on, I also began dating yet again on Match.com.
  • It’s still possible to love journalism. In May, I quit a full-time reporting job. In September, I returned to the classroom. So right now, I’m wrapping up a fall semester of teaching four college journalism classes and running a media training workshop at an advertising agency. Having chased stories as a reporter and chasing students again as a teacher, I feel recharged and whole. (I’m also looking forward to classes ending next week, haha!)
  • Social media is a great support network. Reconnecting has been delightful and more manageable. I feel less pressured now. How pleasant to linger — briefly — over Facebook newsfeeds and catch up with friends. From here, I’m only tweeting things I care about. I Instagram food and pet photos because it’s fun. These websites are starting to feel like different plots in my garden. I tend them because they are enjoyable places to hang out.
  • Dogs love unconditionally.  On Oct. 22, I put Rosebud down. A heart murmur coupled with the onset of liver failure took their toll.When we rescued her two years and five months earlier, she was already about 12 years old and deaf. It makes me cry just to write about her now. This might sound pathetic but RB and I loved each other so completely. She taught me how to bond without fear of rejection. And with RB, I learned that true love is worth having, however briefly.
  • Never give up on romance. Through everything, I kept going on first dates via Match.com. It’s been a relief to know that there are nice, smart guys out there. With the last one, we went from a first date to four dates…in one week! By the second week, the “L” word was on the table. In barely three weeks, we’ve become inseparable. I am in shock — and in love. Forgive me for not providing more info but I need to float with this for a while. It might last, it might not. No matter what, we are both going with it.  :)
  • Overthinking is a huge roadblock to love and happiness. In replugging, I now view social media as a tool for actually simplifying life. It trains me to communicate ideas in bite-sized nuggets. My most important practice remains this blog. It’s a huge step for me to compress the past three months into this post but I did it! I’m percolating new ways to make my blog more interesting. It will get done if I keep things simple. I have to remember that my first priority is to show up regularly and be here with you.


And how have you been? I know some of you have also been experimenting with managing social media — along with shifting life goals. Please share and advise in your comments below. It will be great to hear from you. xo

Comments 16

  1. This is a remarkable blog post, crammed with so much life and change and reflection and insight, I had to read it twice. I know the feeling of watching your only offspring disappear into another world, and I found the process terrifying, then liberating. Interesting that you’ve gone back to teaching, it seems to be a natural for you, and all those students are very lucky, aren’t they? Although sometimes I think about when I’ll “step back” from blogging–it’s almost my day job at this point–I know it’s a ways off. Thanks, Betty.

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      Joel, you are one of my blogging inspirations! Throughout my hiaitus, email alerts for your blog kept arriving faithfully every day. They were a reminder to keep the faith. And yes, Gabs and I are both liking our new relationship; we haven’t had a fight in months! I feel lucky to be back in the classroom too. Nothing like the vampire benefits of being around the young to keep me young!

  2. ‘Sad to hear about Rosebud, but perhaps she & Gabi have left an opening for the new man?? ‘Glad to hear your life is good & ‘look forward to more updates.
    ‘Came across this quote today & it really hit home for me … perhaps for you & others as well …
    “You don’t need another human being to make your life complete, but let’s be honest. Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see them as disasters in your soul but cracks to put their love into is the most calming thing in this world.” ~Emery Allen

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      Well said, Rose! Being with this man feels natural, which is a new experience. And for now, we are charmed and amused by each other’s, um, eccentricities. Ages ago when I was in group therapy, one of the unhappily married members wistfully said that his idea of a perfect relationship is one where both parties’ neurotic tendencies complemented each other. Now I know what he means. It’s truly the most calming thing in the world. Thanks for sharing that quote! :)

      Oh, and Rose, wanted to add that I totally agree with you about space opening up for me because of RB’s passing and my daughter growing up. I have room now for a new life. :)

  3. Lovely blog, Betty. Bless you for rescuing Rosebud and making her last years comfortable. I have three wonderful dogs — one is blind and another is in early kidney failure — and yes, the unconditional love is sublime. Two days ago I started writing as soon as I get up in the morning (5am). I implement a $10 app called Freedom on my computer, which blocks access to the internet for a predetermined amount of time. Miracle of miracles, I’m writing every day! Love your bullet point presentation :)

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      P.M., that app you’re using sounds wickedly useful! Early morning is also my best time…the world is so quiet then. And what a good egg you are for caring for your two old dogs! I still have three aging cats; two of them are requiring special foods now, etc. It’s work but what can we do. Then again, taking care of them teaches me patience — it’s a chance to practice unconditional love towards them too. :)

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  5. I’m so happy to hear how nicely you piloted that landing. The way you re-invent yourself (yet again, girl!) after seismic shifts is downright inspiring. Not to mention that you can write a blog that leaves us wanting more. In this digi-culture, I can think of no one else who waits until they have something interesting to say. I’m looking forward, thank you!
    So sorry to hear about sweet little RB. She was very lucky to have you.

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    Jean, I don’t feel like I am doing anything! Life is just happening! All I did was clean my house and work on my book — which is the equivalent of cleaning the emotional house, I guess. But thanks anyway; happy to take a compliment.

    And thanks about RB too. I sobbed for a whole week; if you get me talking about her even now, I still get weepy. What a spectacular little buddy. I keep lucking out, with animal friends — and humans too (you included, haha!).

  7. Betty, I’m selfishly thrilled to have you back, but happy for your discoveries while unplugged. Enjoy the L-bomb <3

    PS what's new on the painting/drawing front?

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      Laura! Great to hear from you. I’m in the throes of another manuscript rewrite. Once I’m done with that, will start drawing again. So many missing pieces are coming together for me now but the painting is still M.I.A. Not having time to paint makes me crazy. Hopefully, I’ll get to it again soon. Hope your holidays are wonderful! xo

  8. Hey, Betty!

    Just wanted to drop in and say hi. I’ve often thought about completely “unplugging” from the gadgets for awhile. Sounds like it really did you some grand justice. Thanks for sharing about your down time!


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      Kellie, I highly recommend the unplugging experience. A lot of stuff got sorted out. Hope you have a great time during the holidays and get a chance to relax. Thanks for dropping by — always great to hear from you!

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